Thursday, November 06, 2008

South Park, "About Last Night": Obama's eleven

Brief spoilers for last night's "South Park" post-election extravaganza coming up just as soon as I steal some TV's...

"Trapper Keeper," the episode Trey Parker and Matt Stone did in the immediate, uncertain aftermath of the Bush/Gore election, remains one of my favorite "South Park" episodes ever. I must have watched it at least a couple of dozen times within the first year it aired (it was my "Turk dances" before Turk danced, the perfect picker-upper after a lousy day) and likely would have watched it even more if I had kept my old ReplayTV unit that had it stored on the hard drive.

So even though I don't watch "South Park" as often as I used to, I always make a point to check out their election shows, even though they've now led to diminished returns each time since. It's basically the same joke every time: there's really no difference between the two candidates, and everyone getting worked up about their guy versus the other guy is an idiot. There was a hint of that in "Trapper Keeper," and the theme became more overt in the 2004 edition, and was officially driven into the ground with this extended "Ocean's Eleven" parody where McCain and Obama were revealed as master jewel thieves who used the campaign to create a nationwide distraction on election night.

Really this is the theme of the vast majority of "South Park" episodes: people who care too much need to get over themselves. But the execution of that theme varies from week to week, election to election, and the jokes in "About Last Night" were played out within the first five minutes. Seeing Randy Marsh go overboard in his Obama worship, and McCain supporters like Butters' parents prepare for the end of the world was briefly amusing, but then there wasn't a second joke on top of that. Even the payoff about Ike faking the suicide attempt to help the thieves pull off the Hope Diamond heist just made me shrug. The whole thing was like a half-hour "SNL" sketch.

What did everybody else think?

32 comments:

Chris Littmann said...

Randy Marsh always makes me laugh. The actual Obama-McCain stuff wasn't all that funny to me though. After the opening sequence -- other than watching Randy tell off his boss -- I'm not sure I laughed at all.

Anonymous said...

I kept waiting and waiting for the next big laugh....never came.

wcdixon said...

I only 'found' South Park about three years ago (Make Love Not Warcraft), and was delighted to see how on top of their game the show still was. And it's been fun going back and rediscovering a lot of older classic episodes (like Trapper Keeper). But you've hit the nail on the head regarding last nights ep and all of Season 12for the most part: the gag plays out in the first five minutes or so, and then there's no seecond joke on top of it to take show to next level.

I wonder why they've had difficulty turning it up to 11 this year?

TL said...

You hit the nail on the head about South Park (and "Team America") generally in the past ~4 years. Regardless of what your opinions are, there are (were) real, clear differences between Obama and McCain on every issue.

I realize that Parker and Stone think that they are too-coo-for-school libertarian/nihilists,* but they're really just exposing themselves as idiots.

-----
*See also season 8's "Bloody Mary" episode, which was a lot funnier and equally wrong-headed when they did it the first time on "Penn & Teller: Bullshit."

Andrew said...

I think I liked this episode more than most of you because I honestly don't think they were trying to make any sort of statement about the election, unlike the Douche vs. Turd and Trapper Keeper episodes. After all of the high emotions surrounding this election, it seemed like they just said, "Hey, lets just do a goofy movie parody with it." Such a technique didn't lend itself to very unique comedy (except for the brief, hilarious fake dead Grandma joke), but it still made for a moderately amusing, pleasant, and relaxing viewing experience.

Craze said...

You guys are just a bunch of killjoys. You can overanalyze crap to your hearts content, but having the candidates play out an Oceans Eleven style heist was friggin' hilarious! Being able to see such well known figures characterized in such an off the wall way was worth the watch in an of itself (okay, maybe that's not the most original concept ever, but it worked!). And Palin as a super badass British super thief was made of pure awesome; when obama was like, "she's so awesome", that had to be one of the most hilarious moments ever.

Dan Coyle said...

"people who care too much need to get over themselves"

Except, strangely, when it comes to a bad Indiana Jones movie. THEN it's okay to get mad.

I thought the O11 episode was a lot of fun myself.

Anonymous said...

i know that i'm not overanalyzing anything. the episode just wasn't funny or fun.

(my personal favs--the Buck Roger spoof episodes)

Anonymous said...

"Craze", what was the overanalysis here? The analysis was---the show was lame and not funny after the first five minutes. Was that too deep for you?

I agree by the way. South Park has been mediocre this year. It seems pretty much played out, but it's looked that way before and bounced back.

Garnet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Sigh... no actual political talk, okay? Not even in jest.

Benjamin said...

You guys are crazy that was easily the best South park of the year. "Get over yourselves"

Sleepyhead said...

Like a lot of South Parks, The conceit was clever, even novel. Then they forgot to put the jokes in.

Alan, can you delete that political comment? It hanging around is angrying up my blood.

Nicole said...

I liked this one and while it may not the funniest one ever, it still had moments without resorting to excessive gross out humour.

I do wonder how they do the quick turnaround, since parts of the acceptance speech were included, and I also wonder if there was a McCain version or if they just pulled a Gary Trudeau.

The main plot was far less cynical than the B plot and perhaps that's why it wasn't as funny as usual. With the vitriolic tone of the actual campaign, it's kind of interesting that Matt and Trey actually took a "hopeful" spin and had McCain and Obama ultimately working together, even if it was for a diamond. And making Palin a secret and competent British spy was quite the opposite to the approach used by others, especially SNL. (although I liked Fey's skits, they weren't much different from the "Bush is dumb" stuff, which may be funny, but isn't exactly earth shattering.)

I think this episode may play quite differently in a few more months, after the bombardment of campaign stories has faded from recent memory.

Anonymous said...

Alan you are way too jaded now with tv. Relax.

Anonymous said...

that is my favorite episode of this season so far. it tied in so well with ocean 11. and randy is funny as hell!

Anonymous said...

i think it's fine if we disagree, but there is no reason to be insulting and tell others to "Get over yourself."

Zeke said...

I agree that the too-cool-for school attitude/nihilism is the most off-putting part of what Matt and Trey do. If anyone shows passion or gets enthusiastic about anything they must clearly be idiots (and God forbid it's a celebrity doing so. That is the worst crime of all.) And yet politics and who you vote for does matter and have real consequences and to argue it doesn't, is amazingly naive and/or dangerous.

So I actually liked the Oceans 11 part of the episode much more than the first part, as it was just silly fun. More of that please.

bitsy said...

The only thing I laughed out loud about was the guard grinning to the others about getting a hundred dollars.

Other than that, I love South Park and that they go after everything and everyone but I do get a little irritated with that whole "get over yourself" attitude. It works most of the time, but with the election it feels like Trey and Matt are the morons, not the ones who care about something that really, honestly matters to the entire planet. Well, clearly with at least two exceptions.

Anonymous said...

To me the most interesting part was the quick turn around. They actually used lines from Obama's victory speech and McCain's concession speech from less than 24hours before. Amazing!
And the whole time I am wondering, what if McCain had won? Does anyone know if they make two separate shows? If so, what would be different between them? IF McCain won, would Randy had been a McCain fan? Would Butter's dad been a Obama fan? I am honestly curious about this.

Andrew said...

Since going computerized a few years ago, South Park has been capable of very quick turnaround. Much of this was probably all done in advance, but the finishing touches done last minute.

Still didn't make it a particularly good episode of South Park or all that funny. This season's been pretty disappointing so far.

Lucy said...

I agree with Craze, I thought it was hilarious, especially Sarah Palin. They didn't say there was no difference between Obama and McCain or people shouldn't vote, but I have seen blog comments from people seriously calling Obama the Antichrist (which is just lame- as we know from "The Omen", the Anitchrist is a rich Republican WASP whom no one suspects), so the bunker thing wasn't too far off base. Nor will Obama wave a wand and change things. And Baby Ike was too funny ("WAHHH! Goo goo ga ga!" "But Ike, maybe Obama's plan WILL stabilize the economy!")

Jakob said...

I'm surprised of the criticism seen here regarding the latest episode of SP. I've always liked SP and but I will also honestly say that the recent seasons have been really mediocre... until this one.

I guess it just boils down to me expecting another weak episode but found myself laughing my ass off throughout. It really was a "Boom, baby" unexpected good episode in a long while and I hope they keep this up.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

having been watching southpakr since the beginning of season 1, i think season 12 seems to be dry of jokes...and i think they need to do something for the 2 remaining episodes for this season..

Ed Howard said...

It says something about the low quality of this season so far (especially the second half) that this was one of the better episodes they've done this year. The only TRULY great episode this season was the Heavy Metal parody in which Kenny gets high on cat urine and Cartman becomes a Schindler-type figure saving cats from the parental anti-drug fervor: the only glimpse of the crazed, hilarious brilliance that so often appeared in earlier South Park seasons. In comparison, the Ocean's Eleven parody was just mildly amusing and enjoyable, but seemed better coming after a string of painfully unfunny episodes. South Park's last consistently high-quality season was arguably Season 9, but even seasons 10 and 11 had more solid episodes than the current one. They've really gone downhill especially in this past year.

Tom said...

Great episode, we're just spoiled. It was a good release to see the idea of McCain and Obama working together and Palin as a British agent was hilarious. Ike.... "boob baby"

Andrew said...

Since nobody else has yet, I'd like to give sleepyhead props for dropping the Satchel Paige reference...

dez said...

I was a little "meh" on the O11 parody since I'm not a fan of those movies, but watching Randy go overboard with his Obama love and "We did it!" partying had me rolling. That part was hilarious.

adam said...

it wasnt a paradoy on oceans 11, it was of hustle the english drama based on con artists

Daniel said...

I've laughed at one thing since the show returned -- the truck T-shirt Cartman wears when he fights Wendy -- and that doesn't really count because I always laugh when they play up Cartman's kid qualities (when he whines to Kenny, when he talks to Clyde Frog, etc.).

The show's been on a bit of a slump since "Canada On Strike." I'm convinced that Matt and Trey are going to reveal that they did the last few episodes on drugs and just wanted to see how the audience would respond. They've made zero sense to me.

Diego Matamoros said...

yep definitely a parody on hustle. amazing show for those who haven't watched it. Its a reference to the multiracial brit who runs the criminal gang in that show, and the music and dialogue when they present their plan to steal the diamond is absolutely characteristic!

shovelchop81 said...

Adam's right, it's a parody of Hustle not Ocean's 11; nice to see Tray and Matt take notice of our good dramas over here in the UK!